Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Message of Hope from Jerry R. Mitchell

We all need at times to see a great light - especially when we find ourselves in darkness - the darkness of doom and gloom, the darkness of despondency and despair.

At the moment there are many people in this country who feel that they are without hope. Many feel burdened with financial and other problems and we must remember them in our prayers. However, it is important that we do not lose hope, despite the troubles that may face you in your daily lives.

2010 has been a difficult year for many of you, and as it draws to a close we can hopefully look forward with optimism to a brighter 2011, with the much hoped for economic upturn, and the possibility of new employment for those who have joined the unemployment lines in the past year.

As the holiday season approaches our thoughts also turn to family and friends at home in America and elsewhere in the World. We will, of course, also remember our loved ones who are no longer with us, when we come together at family gatherings to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas is a time for celebration, but this year it is a more somber occasion for many. Some of those things which could once have been taken for granted suddenly seem less certain, and naturally give rise to feelings of insecurity.

The families of soldiers now serving overseas carry an extra burden of worry while they are away, In such times as these, we can all learn some lessons from the past. We might begin to see things in a new perspective, and certainly we begin to ask ourselves where it is that we can find lasting happiness.

We live in very challenging times and are confronted by so many things that can easily get in the way of our Christian journeys. We all experience something similar at this time of year. We receive and we send cards. It is a lovely time to be greeting one another.

Christmas is a time for reflection and a time to appreciate the sacrifices made by others on our behalf. Each year it seems amazing how quickly time flies and already Christmas is upon us. What an exciting time!

As a Christian, I say hope and optimism are part of our lives. You can only be successful and achieve your goals if you believe in them. There is a movie however that my family and I watch every year at this time - It's a Wonderful Life. The film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man whose imminent suicide on Chirstmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers). Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched and the contributions he has made to his community.

Each year as I watch it, my heart is truly touched as I reflect upon the difference George Bailey made on the lives of so many. The movie shows the difference in a small town had George Bailey never been born.

What difference are we making day-by-day and year-by-year in the lives of others? Are we concentrating on the right things? Are we making a positive difference in the things we do and the decisions we make?

This Christmas, let's all make a difference. Reach out to someone in need, look for opportunities to help others and use our time and resources well.

Last but not least, for all who celebrate Christmas, remember the real meaning and keep Christ in Christmas.

I wish all of you and all those whom you love, a blessed Christmas - a Christmas rich in the knowledge of God's love for you and rich in the peace of God's care for you.

Jerry R.Mitchell is the President & CEO of Jerry R. Mitchell and Associates, Inc. He is an entrepreneur with a passion for helping companies grow. He's worked in the Fortune 500 world and been part of twelve companies eight of which either went public or were sold/merged with larger companies. Jerry is also Chairman of Modularis Inc. and is President & Founder of The Midwest Entrepreneurs Forum.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Take This Poll on Business Changes That Will Come With the Health Insurance Reform Elements Being Enacted in 2011

I created this poll on LinkedIn. Please take it there @ - OR - leave your choice in the comments section below. Thanks!

How will the higher cost and more regulations of Health Insurance Reform coming in 2011 affect your business decisions?

A. Hire less employees due to higher cost.

B. Ask employees to contribute more to cost.

C. Overhaul employee benefits package to lower cost.

D. Offer cheaper less coverage plans.

E. No longer offer health insurance benefit.

Thank you for your participation. I appreciate your time and opinion.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Michelle Obama’s “No Real Change” Disappoints Loyal Democrat

One Reason President Obama is Losing the Women’s Vote

Do you remember the constant message during the presidential campaign that an Obama victory would bring real change to “Washington as usual” pledged on the stump by both candidate Barack and potential first lady Michelle? Do you remember feeling a vote for Barack Obama would bring “Hope & Change” to the political process and America? Loyal Democrat and Obama supporter Leslie Harris does.

Leslie Harris is the President and Founder of the 501c3 non-profit organization Women On The Move. WOTM is a phenomenally growing brand in the philanthropic grant and scholarship giving non-profit sector. Ms. Harris’ vision and the company’s motto is “Promoting Positivity in Women”.

Women On The Move is also an emerging star in the online media sectors especially their consistently highly followed and iTunes downloaded blog talk radio programs. WOTM offers diverse programming with shows like The Round Table, Minding Our Business, Worth Reading, and specials featuring interviews with diverse industry leaders.

Women On The Move is a group that seeks and includes women of all ages, marital status, sexual orientation, employment levels, economic status, ethnicities, religions, and political affiliation if any. WOTM encourages women to “share their views, listen respectfully, agree and disagree about the important events of the day that affect women, the world, our families and ourselves.”

Ms. Harris spells out the vision and mission clearly on the WOTM website: “We want women who want to share their stories, their advice, their ideas, their recipes, with women who are looking for stories, advice, ideas and recipes. We want women who want to share their businesses by networking. If a subject affects women or affects the world it is considered neither too small nor too large to discuss in our forums, blogs, and news items.”

“Women On The Move is not a group that will seek, as a group, to promote one political party over another. Instead, we seek to provide a forum for all points of view to be heard, agreed with, disagreed with, argued and informed.”

“Women On The Move is not a group that hates men. We are a group that believes that the very fact that we are women is a gift, a blessing, a burden, an opportunity, a detriment. Just like men, we have an obligation to give back to society. We want women who are proud to be women and want to give back.”

Anyone would agree WOTM is an organization that should fit seamlessly into promoting and affecting real hope and change in America for women as well as men. That’s what Leslie Harris believes and works toward.

Ms. Harris is a loyal Democrat and is proud to put her money where her mouth is in making political financial contributions. She contributed to the Obama presidential campaign. She receives fairly constant solicitations by phone and email for additional contributions.

She was excited to receive a non-transferable invitation from the Democratic National Committee and The Women’s Leadership Forum cordially inviting her to a reception for First Lady Michelle Obama on November 22, at a private home in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The attendance required a $5,000 minimum contribution.

Ms. Harris sent an email to the DNC reception contact, Florida Finance Director Jessica Clark, inquiring about having 10-15 minutes of Ms. Obama’s time to “talk about women’s issues, as my organization, Women On The Move, is a 501c3 organization that focuses on issues concerning women.” She also included the website URL and the growing numbers of WOTM.

You can imagine Ms. Harris’ initial surprise, believer’s disappointment, and eventual outrage at being unceremoniously told in an email response by Ms. Clark that she would have to write a check for $10,000 for even a few minutes of Ms. Obama’s possible direct attention in a photo line at the reception. To sponsor the event, with no guarantee of actual interaction with Ms. Obama, she would have to write a check for $30,400.

Here is Leslie Harris’ exact email response to Ms. Clark on November 12:

"Hi Jessica,

If the only way to get to speak to the First Lady is to pay at least $5,000.00, I’ll take a pass on that. I will, however, let our members, as well as our listeners to our weekly internet radio show know that the only way to speak to our First Lady is to pay money, and lots of it. I hope Democratic elected officials who still have their positions don’t question why we, who once were 100% in the corner of Democratic candidates have now moved away. It’s unfortunate that the change we thought we could believe in, has turned into change that we don’t want any part of. You take care, let the President know that we will see him in 2012!! "

Is it good policy and advocacy for real change to have a reception welcoming Ms. Obama sponsored by The Women’s Leadership Forum that will not permit brief direct conversation about women’s issues with Ms. Obama absent a large contribution?

Is it reasonable to invite someone to a reception with an entrance contribution of $5,000 and then acknowledge there will be no access to the honored guest without an additional $5,000 contribution for a minute or two in a photo line?

Is this reflective of real hope and change in “Washington as usual”? Leslie Harris doesn’t believe so. She certainly understands the need for politicians to solicit campaign contributions, and her objection in this situation was not about soliciting donations at a private reception.

Her objection was a “pay for access” at a reception that blatantly reflected it only being about “what can we bring in” and not even slightly about “what real changes can we learn about and lead for women”. She felt genuine outrage at what she believed was a stunning display of “Washington as usual” behavior and attitude.

Ms. Harris believes the American people thought they would be getting leadership that wanted to rise above empty campaign promises being the norm. Is this why President Obama is losing the women’s vote?

Leslie Harris continues promoting positivity for women through Women On The Move – with or without The Women’s Leadership Forum or Ms. Obama’s interest in what she sees as walking the talk on facilitating real change in the lives of women from all aspects of real life and circumstance.

In full disclosure, I work with Leslie as a Co-Host of WOTM Presents The Round Table. I personally know the sincerity and commitment she has to her vision for all women.

Follow Brenda Krueger Huffman on Twitter and join her on Facebook.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Real Estate Trend Expert Tom Ruff's December Housing Report

“You can’t have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time.” - Charles F. Kettering, Inventor

This month we’ll take a quick look at 2011 while giving our data a full-body scan, and if our full-body scan reveals something of interest, we’ll give that data a thorough pat down. Why? The answer is simple: so our readers can feel safe with the information we provide.

This just in, B of A is back in business. The Bank of America foreclosure moratorium ended December 6th, more to follow.

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

In November, Maricopa County saw 5,891 new notices of trustee’s sale filed. While this is still an extremely high number, it’s the lowest number we’ve seen since the 5,879 of April 2008, when the foreclosure party was just heating up.

The optimist in me wants November to be the beginning of the end, the time when new notices start their inevitable decline, just as April 2008 was the beginning of the beginning. New notices cannot stay at current levels forever; eventually we have to return to a normal market.

This week Housingwire reported, “The serious delinquency rate on single-family mortgages held by Fannie Mae was 4.56% in September, a 16 basis point drop from September 2009 and the first yearly decline since April 2007.”

Let’s face it—the reason for the decline: foreclosures. The new loans coming into the pool have made it through strict underwriting protocol while the bad loans just keep getting sent to the courthouse steps, and once they’re foreclosed, they’re no longer delinquent.

Good in, bad out; delinquency rates had to improve. Regardless of the reasons for the decline, declining notices and declining delinquencies are still encouraging at the least. It’s also encouraging that the yearly running totals of newly filed notices are down 16.60%, from 103,219 to 86,082. The ninety-day averages are also down 12.23% from those that we saw last year at this time, from 23,304 to 20,453.

These numbers may not make us smile, but they can make us at least relax our frowns. I’d love to jump on my chair and sing, “Ding dong! The witch is dead. Which old witch? The wicked witch is dead.” But just as a “witch” rests because of an exhausting Halloween or a tough Connecticut senatorial race, foreclosures are resting, at least in part, because of the annual holiday season respite.

Trustee’s deeds hit 33-month low

While the yearly and quarterly number of new notices filed offer guarded optimism, the 37% decrease of recorded trustee’s deeds from the previous month is meaningless. Yes, trustee’s deeds hit a 33-month low.

The reason? Bank of America was on foreclosure vacation. The 2,698 properties foreclosed on in November was the lowest total since March 2008’s 2,365. Bank of America’s moratorium began October 8th, and it ceased yesterday, December 6th.

Of all B of A sales scheduled for December, 8,080 were moved to January or later, which was the vast majority. Of the 591 still scheduled in December, 196 currently have opening bids. Expect December foreclosures to remain at lower levels, and expect this trend into early January, since it normally takes B of A two weeks after the auction to record each deed.

Now that their moratorium is over, they’ll have two months of foreclosures to catch up on, which almost guarantees near-record foreclosures in the coming months. These numbers will most likely be reflected in March’s recordings.

Foreclosure activity always declines over the holidays: a gesture of kindness which usually lasts until the second week of January, when most New Year’s resolutions have gone wayside and it’s back to business as usual.

REO numbers down, pending numbers up

One of the numbers frequently requested and tracked by government agencies is the combined total of REO properties and active notices. We ended November with 19,966 bank- or government-held homes and 39,964 homes with active notices. We began tracking these numbers 19 months ago, and in that time frame there has been visible movement in the two components.

In the last 19 months we’ve seen REO extremes with a low of 13,377 and a high of 20,821, and active notices have moved between 47,606 and 39,229. But when we combine the REO total and the active notice total on any single date, we never stray more than 5 percentage points from 60,000.

Today’s total is 59,930. The high of 62,123 occurred in February 2010 as we moved into the final months of the tax credit, and the low of 57,216 occurred in June 2010 just after the credit expired.

This month we saw REO inventory decline by 855 and pending active notices increase by 229, which is exactly what one would expect. Remember, Bank of America stopped foreclosing; they did not stop filing new notices.

The bad news

One of the toughest monthly opinions I had to write was in July of this year, just as it became apparent that our market was starting to back pedal. The “bad news ahead” warning we issued in July has now manifested itself in national reports, and the declining prices we predicted have occurred.

The doomsdayers will continue to predict their usual price plunge of a 15% to 20% drop, but the declines I see in the future will be modest: more of a slip than a plunge. In November we saw a median resale home price of $121,548, down from October’s $123,000, and I expect this number to soften only slightly over the next two to three months.

Peering into 2011

As always, to end on a positive note, let’s give the first look into 2011 to Frank Nothaft, the Chief Economist for Freddie Mac who sees a gradual recovery of the housing and mortgage markets in 2011.

According to Frank Nothaft, the five features that will likely characterize the housing and mortgage markets for next year are low mortgage rates, house-price recovery, homebuyer affordability, fewer mortgage originations, and lower delinquency rates. In Arizona, we can throw in great weather, can’t we?

Contact Tom Ruff at The Information Market.

Tom is a graduate of the University of Nebraska. He founded "The Information Store" in 1982 and quickly became known as “The Source” of publicly recorded real estate data in Maricopa County. In August 2005 he formed "The Information Market" specializing in foreclosure data and housing studies.

Mr. Ruff is an expert on publicly recorded data and is known for his monthly housing opinion which shares an inside and sometimes irreverent look at the Phoenix Housing Market. He is often quoted in local and national publications.